Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 24,6 km
Start: 8:45 End: 15:35
When I wake around five to five-thirty for my second night pee, we agreed I will kick Lilja awake when I am done. Without talking or an alarm clock ringing, I will go kind of back to sleep while she is boiling water for cooking her breakfast and making coffee, likely texting on her own satellite phone and going out for bathroom. When she finally, after over an hour, stuffs her sleeping bag, I can slowly wake, get dressed, eat my breakfast and pack and am still earlier out of the tent. I will be arranging the kayaks by the water, packing my own stuff and finally taking the tent down while Lilja is eventually dressed and ready to pack her private stuff into her kayak. It works. This morning, she additionally had to work on mopping away a whole mug of coffee slowly running under her pad and half under mine while she was outside. It gave a wonderful smell inside the tent on the mopping job. At least it was better than the leaking pee-bottle of one of my former paddling partners soaking my pillow and pad. Yuck!
After a wonderful sunny evening yesterday, we are again blessed by some sunshine and a little bit of warmth. We aim downriver, ready to have a look at the first oil station along the river to our left. What I did not have on my screen is a real bridge for cars with a six-tubes-pipeline to the side. From the distance, we see maybe a dozen trucks driving slowly over the bridge on this beautiful Sunday morning, and when we are close-by, two more just pass for a wave and horn-honking. It is our first contact with humans after a dozen days in the wilderness, if it would not be for the constant helicopter and small planes buzzing between the oil sites. We try landing just under the bridge, but just here the bank is very muddy. Different to most areas which have solid sandy banks or steep mud cliffs on either side. No problem finding a camp spot if we would need one. Our lunch break on a sunny sandy bank revives our spirits. It feels like a different world in here, no ice floes, no permafrost mud cliffs and wet tundra, but much more friendly. The oil drilling tower of the first site even remind me to the lighthouse in Westerhever close to my hometown Husum.
On the water, we do not encounter a single boat, but at least see a dozen obviously attended and in good shape nets. Sunday morning might not be the best time checking on those. We climb out about six times for a look around, and find amazingly blooming meadows with low willow bushes on top of the sandy dunes. The view into the distance goes a long way on this flat land. Oil sites and their building are to be seen into every direction.
Sometimes, the view along the river is blocked by mudflat corners, and it feels like paddling into a dead end. But I trust my satellite images the river continues until the small village of Nuiqsut. Soon we reach the first buildings, and land on a sandy shore on the left corner of the village. As I have not planned to paddle past Nuiqsut I also made no contacts and we will just play it by ear and see what will happen. Sure, we are after a hot shower, laundry, possibly a dry campsite inside a workshed like in Barrow. I try my luck with a walk around town, but find only closed facilities on a Sunday afternoon. I talk to a lad squeezing into a corner of the school, but finally end up with Frederic working on his boat. We have a friendly chat, and he promises to organize something. But people are not easy to reach on a Sunday afternoon. Our only contact was from the rescue station guys in Barrow with a guy named Archie being in charge for a similar facility here, but it turns out he has just left for seal hunting. Frederic’s buddy Calvin shows up and gives us a lot of local information. Thankfully, he offers us his house for shower, laundry and freshwater refilling and we feel that is all we need. Thanks so much to Calvin and Helen to open their facilities for us! Tomorrow Lilja will post another parcel of surplus stuff back to Anchorage. I was not strict enough in Barrow, and now she feels herself she can get rid of more things. Glad she is learning. I will add a few bits, and soon we travel lighter tomorrow, if it would not be for the freshly refilled twelve water bags. Filtering the readily available pond water is not what we fancy either every evening.
We both feel like newborn after the hot shower and laundry. After the post office job tomorrow, we will start over again paddling back to the open sea.